Sunday, February 12, 2006

early yesterday, breathlessly navigating the metro system at 7:58am and gathering every bit of my wits together, i emerged into the brisk morning at bryant park. at the moment i saw the white peaked landscape of tents, i knew that i wasn't just dreaming.

i was in new york city. i was to be at olympus fashion week. i was on my way to attend the finale collections of the project runway designers: daniel vosovic, kara janx, chloe dao, and santino rice. i was almost embarassed at my bubbling excitement to be at one of the most glamourous events in the world!

i was invited as diana eng's guest, which was such a wonderful gesture of hers. in short, we worked together twice (before, and after, her project runway fame hit) for the seamless fashion show at MIT, and she knew how much i would enjoy the show. (apparently, the show was a super-hot event; i've read that some people were scalping tickets for up to $3000.)

i waited outside the entrance, as they were not going to let anyone in until 8:30am. i chilly-ly perched on the steps, flanked by hipsters (assumed as designers' guests), press reporters (the boston herald was at the front of the line), and sponsor representatives (one sunglassed lady from orbitz had her giggly daughter + friend in tow). to kill time i munched on my toasted-but-cooling bagel and ogled the crowd. i saw heidi (the season contestant) and zulema pass by on the sidewalk, so i knew i was in the right place!

finally, the floodgates opened and we all rushed into the tent. the crowds regrouped and we were herded behind ropes once again. as we waited for them to let us in further, i turned around and noticed a very familiar face behind me: collier strong, the l'oreal make-up director on the show! at first i just sort of played cool, but then i broke down and spun around and said, 'hi, are you collier? i am such a fan'. there went my dignity :) but he seemed pretty okay with it and his companion jody was very friendly too. (i figured not too many people would swoon over him as opposed to one of the designers or something, but the makeover episode was fantastic, so i know credit where credit needs to be due.) i said, 'you were great in the last episode,' and he replied, 'ah, it's not over, just wait and see...' so perhaps there are more makeup moments in upcoming episodes? ooh la!

we were shepherded quite a bit, and in the shuffle i started chatting with a very attractive designer-looking woman who turned out to be marla's guest, from pennsylvania. we both gushed about our respective project runway obsessions (we finally were in a 'safe place' for that, hee) and gawked and gossiped. and finally we reached the promenade, where there was more gawking than we had ever envisioned...

the space was a long rectangular room, with the runway a strip down the middle. it was non-elevated, just an inch-high white stiff foam kind of material covered with a protective plastic layer. the place was swarming and bustling with cameras and fancy people. the first celeb i espied was jai rodriguez, one of the fab five of queer eye. that's when my heart started pumping.

we first found our seats, in section G row 6, which was just fine, somewhere in the middle, and we could see our friends, the season contestants, opposite of the runway and seated in the first row (natch). each chair held a little goodie ELLE bag, which i delightfully pawed through as if it were christmas morning. there was the latest issue of ELLE magazine (with ashlee simpson on the front), the project runway magazine supplement, a fangled wire whisk to promote bravo's new series top chef (because, honestly, what else is there to watch post-PR?), some awesome high-impact-pigment makeup from l'oreal, some hair product from tresemme, a black shoe/cosmetics bag from bravo, and a leather-ensconced USB flash drive from saturn (diana got really excited about this one).

and then i went down to the runway to catch the action. and what action there was! it was so surreal to be there with all these celebs that i watch oh-so-intimately on the television every week or so. i dont really get to meet many famous folks outside of academia, so i was starstruck to the maxxx.



i <3 ted allen! he's a foodie hottie. and so there i am with him and jai and... oh my, that's anne hathaway right behind me! i didnt even notice her until after the photo was taken. so beautiful and graceful, and seemingly great friends with jai. :)



austin was definitely my favorite from last season of PR, so i was thrilled to meet him in the flesh. that's melissa, his model (remember how she shimmied in that swimsuit for that one episode? oh yeah), and she was just overwhelmingly sweet and friendly. she's also, like what, 17 years old, but she had this radiance that adoringly down-to-earth and girl-next-door. very approachable and very beautiful. austin, of course, was smashingly dressed for the occasion.

i hugged diana and saw her with the rest of the PR2 cast.

andrae: just as enthusiastic and drama-adorable as expected. he came in late to his seat and got a playful slap from nick on the knee.

daniel franco: i saw him in the sea of the crowd and said 'hi! remember me from LA, with diana?' and he brightened and said, 'of course! you look fab, great to see you again!' with the most sincere smile. such a sweetheart.

emmett: very cool and with an understated elegance. the afterparty was to be at his new boutique!

guadalupe: oh-so-perky and all smiles. she introduced herself as LUPE!

heidi: didnt get to speak to her but she was showing off her gams with a short skirt and mile high boots...

john wade: i honestly did not recognise him from the show, since he looks awesome! he lost a lot of weight since the taping, and looked sharp in a grey blazer.

kirsten + marla: didnt directly meet, but i noticed that kirsten is pregnant...

nick: the most adorable man alive. i was super nervous but i gushed, and told him that me (and a certain other labmate) sent our warmest regards, and nick was so gracious and sincere.

raymundo: didnt directly meet, though he looked ultra-cool LA.

zulema: tall and graceful. she was wearing her own designs, a military-inspired cream top and pants, with buttons and shiny layers.

it was such a pleasure to say hello to everyone, to such a talented group! it was sort of weird, since i 'felt' that i knew them so well, though i really dont in the least, and they have not the slightest idea of who i am. it's such a strange artifact of broadcast media... the false intimacy you get with the mediated presence of a person versus real, live interaction. though i quickly threw my inhibition to the wind and just tried to say hi and congratulations to everybody i recognised.

here's a smattering of more:



from T to B, L to R: me + zulema; shannon (emmett's model), john wade, emmett, diana, and me; tarah (nick's model, and miz barbie!); and me + kara.

anyway, enough of the celebs. the clothes are why we are there!

finally, after about an hour of attempts to clear the runway, everyone started to take their seats and the lights did their thing. suddenly, all eyes were on the front row, because who else but michael kors and nina garcia and heidi klum appeared for us mortals...



you can espy ms. garcia and mr. kors doing what they do. she, of course, was a lithe lovely, and he donned inexplicable sunglasses and his normal blazer/jeans ensemble.

heidi klum came out, all peaches and cream, with a plunging shiny black dress and a soft ponytail at her nape. she's as beautiful (or more) than you would imagine, in a loving, girlish kind of way. very much like a german barbie doll, with a warm smile, and i would believe that she is a great mother.

she taps on the microphone, the lights go down, and we all applause heartily. she announces, 'hello! thank you all so much for coming to the project runway finale. three very talented designers are so very looking forward to sharing their collections at fashion week. we'd like to introduce our judges... our celebrity guest judge, debra messing from will + grace (clap, clap); nina garcia, fashion editor at elle magazine (clap, clap); and one of my favorite all-time designers, michael kors (clap, clap, clap). now! let us begin, and start the show!' she proceeds to sit down next to m. kors and some moments pass by (well, andrae finally makes it into his seat) and there's a little commotion down by heidi. a minute later she gets up, taps into the microphone, and says, 'what? i have to do this again! can you believe it? the cameras were not rolling!' she walks back to the entrance of the runway. 'BALONEY!' she exclaims with a laugh. before she ducks back there she remarks, 'ok, we're going to do it one more time, pretend again that you're happy to see me!' it is so very cute.

so yes, she repeats her little intro and then sits down. the lights go down low, and we see daniel vosovic emerge. he gives the most humble speech ever, starting with 'hi... i'm so nervous. it's been a long journey, more than most will know. but this is my collection. i dedicate it all to my family.' and he gets all huggy with his fam and goes back, hair a-wave.

the music starts throbbing its low beat, and we all hold our breaths.




it was a very, very polished collection. all the construction was sleek and immaculate, and it felt very strong. however, it seemed very american, and so elegant to the point of being a bit too safe. it reminded me a lot of calvin klein, or ralph lauren, with the military/naval effects and the blue + white palette. i loved the necklines, especially on the white coat (swoon), and the white pleated skirt was the girliest delight of the set. i went 'eh' to the dress with the gloves; the color and the skin/surface ratio was just off was me. i dont know, the collection as a whole was really impressive, though i dont think it was one to knock your socks off; it was almost too wearable. i would have expected something much more detailed and unexpected, rather than minimalist and elegant. but i'll take daniel out for a coffee date anytime :)

next, kara came out with the enthusiasm of someone who just won the olympics. she pumped her fists in the air and jumped up and down giddily. she beamed and pronounced, 'i am so thrilled to be here. i am so confident... you will love my collection... because it ROCKS!' with a grin she bounded off the runway. that intro really piqued the crowd!




i personally was absolutely loving her stuff. i dont know if it was the bright bursts of juxtaposed colour (it was definitely the most joyous palette of the show), the handknit winter hats paired with glamourous gowns, or the urban girly vibe. the styling of the collection definitely fit my aesthetic, and who honestly cannot love the arm warmers? :) one thing that did flash in my mind was that it was reminiscent of jay mccarroll's stuff from last year. only in an indirect way, i can imagine... the similar fuschia colors, the accessorizing headwear, and the streetwise schtick. but you could feel it. i could see jay whispering animatedly to kara saun; i couldnt tell if it was like, 'what is she doing? she's totally copying!' or 'what is she doing? it's downright brilliant!' a lot of her stuff was stretchy silk jersey, with empire waists galore. although i've been reading a lot of critics against her collection, i thought it was rather playful and fun and funky. lighten up, it's just fashion!

so chloe comes out in a sweater and jeans and waves to her family, which is approximately half of the entire audience. heehee, just kidding, though she has seven sisters who are all small and cute and chloe-clones and completely run the place. chloe's like, 'hi y'all. here's my collection, my heart and soul and passion are in these pieces through and through.' she gives a shoutout to her boyfriend and family in the crowd and ducks backstage.




i was not more surprised at what emerged as chloe's collection. i was expecting something quite young, feminine, with at least an inkling of chloe blue in there! in the PR challenges, i loved her minimal, modern shapes and clever construction. at fashion week, however, she completely went to the other side of the universe and emerged with what i can only say is 1980's soft-lit glam. she did some interesting twists with silhouette, with puffy bicep sleeves, but i found it kind of ugly, in a topiary-poodle kind of way. some of the cocktail dresses were gaudy shiny and shouldered in a mother-of-the-bride fashion. there were some lovely flowy dresses in true chloe silhouette, but i absolutely hated the print fabric, a dark forest green with pink florals. it reminded me something you would find at dress barn or chadwicks in the late 1990's. harsh but true. i'm sure that they were perfectly and ingeniously sewn, with perhaps a tongue-in-cheek reference to the old skool female, but i did not feel strongly for it at all. it seemed too shiny and too womanly. the only redeeming pieces for me were the brown pantsuits; i adored the sculptural necklines and the artful layering of lace, satin, and shape.

and lastly, we have santino. (btw, there were four showings because of the way that the project runway episodes aired. although it's supposedly the final three contestants show at fashion week, it's actually four since the fourth person hasnt been voted off the show yet. it's weird, though it's basically four people show, though one knows they aren't vying for the grand prize.) he comes out, smiling and cocky, saying, 'surprise! you didnt think you'd see me, eh? well, whether you love to hate me, or hate to love me, i'm not just good tv... i'm a great designer!' he then holla'd to his momma and retreated back out of sight.




of course, everyone expected santino to have some crazy, trimmed-to-the-gills garments, since on the show he designed with a heavy, accessorizing hand. however, the pieces did show certain restraint, though letting some of his rock'n'roll shine with glimpses (or billows, at times) of leather and lace. in actuality, it was quite pretty although a bit almost too much to err on the side of boring. i would say his stuff could fit into either of two categories: pretty and boring, or bold and garish. the clear exceptions were the gorgeous dresses in the dyed green flowy fabric. the pleated one had wondrous movement as heather twirled at the end of the runway, the folds of fabrics enveloped feather-light. however, you have to admire his honest, raw passion. i secretly liked the leather bits adorning the bustlines of the dresses, it created a tough-girly-girl image.

and thus it all ended with great aplomb. hope you enjoyed the commentary, with liucubed's picks interjected within. :) i honestly have no clue what the judges will gravitate towards, but i think kara and daniel had the most rockin' collections. only time will tell what tidings they bring!

post-show, the runway again became a press free for-all, and everyone was revved with renewed energy from the show.



i managed to find kara saun and tell her how much her designs rock. apparently she designed a lot of heidi klum's maternity clothes worn during the PR tapings! that's real pride for a designer, methinks. :)



diana was captured and asked 'what did she think of the collections'. i didnt quite hear her response, but i did get a great picture of the action. :) she's so little! and the cameras are so big!

whew. it is late, and i have written a lot! but it was so wonderful to be there, to see the proud faces of the designers' families, to see the happiness all around. i imagine it was one of the most earnest, sincere crowd at fashion week.

see all the pieces from the show at new york metro, which also is the source for the photos above.

then you can see all my fashion week photos at flickr.

such a fabulous time. it really takes your breath away to see such beautiful clothes (and hear the words directly from the designer) in your presence. i'm spoiled now, can you tell? i cant wait until my next fashion show! stay tuned, because i have a feeling it won't be long...

8 Comments:

Blogger Laura K said...

Thank you so much for sharing this experience with your readers, Christine. I feel almost like I was there!

7:04 AM  
Blogger Gigolo Kitty said...

Thanks for the great write up! It makes me wish even more that I was there:)

7:55 AM  
Blogger nsa said...

I loved your commentary on the designs--it's so hard to tell from the photographs, so it's great to hear what they were like in person!

11:24 AM  
Blogger Tbone said...

Christine - next best thing to being there was having you there for us! Great dish, too, on Collier Strong and Kara Saun. Heidi has looked fab all season and thats the first I heard that Kara Saun had a hand in it! Wouldn't you have loved to hang out at the after party?

Send much love to Diana for us for fronting you the ticket. We love you both!

4:35 PM  
Blogger The Scarlett said...

Christine, thanks so much. What an amazing experience! Your photos were smashing, by the way.

5:35 PM  
Blogger honeybee33 said...

OMG, I can't believe how jealous I am!!!

I just finished watching the "final selection" episode and it was delicious to "tune in" to your blog immediately afterwards and see the results! Instant gratification rox. ;~)

Thanx so much for the inside peek! (and I agree - I *luved* Kara Janx's collection - if only we'd seen more of her POV in the challenges!)

~ deborah ~

11:33 PM  
Blogger Mags said...

So. Jealous.

But now I know what was in those ELLE goodie bags!

Great reporting! :)

11:31 PM  
Blogger Mags said...

I'm glad you listed Daniel V.'s 13th garment as "skeptical." Seriously. WTF.

11:36 PM  

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